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Council Unanimously Passes Resolution In Support of East African Immigrant Population’s Access to Money Transfer Operators

Morales’ resolution highlights cultural relevancy and positive economic impact of MTOs

Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the C/ID) and her Council colleagues unanimously passed a resolution on Monday in support of Seattle’s East African immigrant population and their ability to access reliable and culturally relevant “money transfer operators.” 

The resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Morales, reaffirms the City of Seattle’s support of unbanked money transfer operators and the immigrant communities they serve. Seattle has one of the largest East African communities in the United States – nearly 30,000 Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis are Seattle residents – who use money transfer operators, or MTOs, to send money to their loved ones abroad.

“South Seattle is home to a large East African immigrant population who for years have faced the very real threat of having their bank accounts closed and their family members overseas cut off from the only financial support they know,” said Morales. “But the authors of the Patriot Act and this administration know that too, which is why the inhumane and cruel practice has been allowed to continue. Together with the state and our federal delegation (led by members of our Congressional delegation Representatives Adam Smith and Denny Heck), I hope to bring an immediate end to the cultural ‘norm’ that allows some of us to flourish while others are so obviously left to flounder.  This resolution calls on the Washington state legislature – specifically the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade Committee and the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee to study the legislative options that could better support financial inclusion.”

From the text of the resolution:

“These MTOs provide culturally specific services; deliver money to remote regions not served by the large operators, including refugee camps in East Africa; provide good paying jobs; contribute to community activities; and are a valuable members of Seattle’s small business community.”

Morales worked with local stakeholders, including OneAmerica,  Council on American Islamic Relations Washington, and The Right To Be Banked Campaign. 

“Today, the Seattle City Council made it clear that the ‘Right to be Banked’ is something that all community members – regardless of their ethnicity, religion, race, or other status – should be entitled to,”  said CAIR Washington’s Executive Director, Masih Fouladi. “Access to safe and secure banking makes all of us safer while ensuring our Black, Muslim, POC, and immigrant-owned businesses have equal access to opportunities and resources.”

“This is a great day for Black immigrants, Muslims, and Hispanic residents of Seattle that have been shut out of the banking system. By passing this resolution which calls on the Washington State legislature to promote financial inclusion, the Seattle City Council is sending a strong message that it is committed to breaking down the institutional barriers that cause economic inequalities. I would like to thank Councilmember Morales for her leadership on this effort,” said Roble Musse, Founder of The Right To Be Banked Campaign.

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